Don Marti

Mon 16 Aug 2010 06:33:23 AM PDT

Balancing out the fear training?

Seth Godin went through TSA screening and writes, "we're paying a significant tax (time and money) and getting nothing in return. In fact, we get worse than nothing. We could call it an anxiety program, instead of a tax."

I agree, and I know that, according to Bruce Schneier, "The surest defense against terrorism is to refuse to be terrorized" (rtwt!) but the fact is, if you go through the motions of something, you tend to acquire the corresponding attitude. William James pointed out that "emotion follows upon the bodily expression."

Apply that to this situation, and you get: Un-free your ass, and your mind will follow.

I'm thinking about how to prevent forming unwanted habits of mind, and it's a hard problem. Richard Stallman once wrote, about some programmers who didn't raise an obvious but controversial issue in a meeting, "They seem to have learned the habit of cowering before authority even when not actually threatened. How very nice for authority. I decided not to learn this particular lesson."

But, unfortunately, it seems almost impossible to get to a certain attitude about freedom just by deciding to. You need to go through the motions, train your lizard brain. Stallman famously dug out of his problem by sitting down and writing eye-bleeding quantities of software and the relevant licenses. But what can I, personally, do about the ongoing fear training I'm signed up for? I want to "refuse to be terrorized," and I make myself familiar with the facts of the situation so I can make the logical argument to myself, but I need some counter-training.

Here's what I'm trying so far. Keep track of how much time I have to put in on fear training, and balance it out by picking some activity from the Bill of Rights and doing that. I had to go through TSA screening myself, so I put in about the same amount of time writing and mailing a paper letter to Rep. Pete Stark about the Federal Research Public Access Act. Suggestions for other self-training projects welcome.

Overly Civilized

I have this same problem. Part of being successfully (!?!) educated is that you're also predisposed to being compliant. And that just isn't good, long-term. My husband, who is not as educated as me but far more worldly, does not have the knee-jerk obedience thing that I do, and I spend a lot of time just watching him navigate the world, trying to remember that you don't always have to be a good dog, or comport yourself in a manner the authorities (and just who put them in authority to begin with???) deem appropriate.

I strongly recommend minor acts of defiance, and then stepping it up from there.

Comment by Laureen Mon 16 Aug 2010 11:09:24 AM PDT